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1. PRINCIPAL DEFENDANT: Honeywell Metropolis Works
S.D.  Illinois  11-CR-40006-JPG
Honeywell, a Delaware corporation with corporate headquarters in Morristown, N.J., owns and operates a uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion facility in Massac County, Ill., near the city of Metropolis and the Ohio River. Honeywell is licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to possess and otherwise manage natural uranium, which it converts into UF6 for nuclear fuel. The Metropolis facility is the only facility in the United States to convert natural uranium into UF6.

At the Metropolis facility, air emissions from the UF6 conversion process are scrubbed with potassium hydroxide (KOH) prior to discharge. As a result of this process, KOH scrubbers and associated equipment accumulate uranium compounds that settle out of the liquid and are pumped as a slurry into 55-gallon drums. The drummed material, called “KOH mud” and consisting of uranium and KOH, has a pH greater than or equal to 12.5.

In November 2002, Honeywell shut down part of the wet reclamation process it used to reclaim the uranium from the KOH mud, knowing that previously accumulated drums of KOH mud and any additional drums of KOH mud generated thereafter would have to be stored onsite until such time as the wet reclamation process was restarted. Honeywell also knew that, because the pH of KOH mud generated at the facility was greater than or equal to 12.5, it is classified as corrosive hazardous waste under regulations issued pursuant to RCRA. Therefore, Honeywell needed, but did not have, a RCRA permit to store any drums of KOH mud at its facility longer than 90 days.

In July 2007 Honeywell requested a modification of its RCRA permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) so that it could store drums of KOH mud. IEPA issued Honeywell a modified permit in July 2008, allowing Honeywell to store drums containing KOH mud only in a KOH container storage area designed to contain any spills, leaks, or precipitation that accumulates in the drum storage area. By September 2008 Honeywell had accumulated more than 7,000 drums of KOH mud. In April 2009, EPA special agents conducted a search warrant and found nearly 7,500 illegally stored drums containing waste that was both radioactive and hazardous. Honeywell began storing the KOH mud drums in compliance with the terms of its RCRA permit in approximately March 2010.

March 11, 2011
Honeywell was charged with one count of violating RCRA {42 U.S.C. 6925 {permit violation - knowingly storing hazardous waste without a permit }.

Honeywell pled guilty and was sentenced to 60 months probation and ordered to pay an $11.8 million federal fine. Honeywell will also develop, fund, and implement a household hazardous waste collection program and arrange for proper treatment, transportation, and disposal of this waste collected during at least 8 collection events over a 2 year period, at a cost of approximately $200,000.

Read more in the EPA Press Release.
CITATION: 42 U.S.C. 6925
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

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